When The Beatles were composing their various albums through the decades, George Harrison always fell short when the track listing was brought up. John Lennon and Paul McCartney were at the forefront of the Fab Four’s songwriting, and as a result, Harrison and Ringo Starr only had a handful of their tracks included on their records. When The Beatles ventured to India in 1968, Harrison penned one long-forgotten track that the band simply did not want to work with.
The Beatles’ ninth record, The White Album, hit store shelves in November 1968, so this timeline matches up for when Harrison originally wrote the track.
“We recorded it,” Harrison continued. “But we didn’t get it down right or something. Then I forgot all about it until a year ago when I found this old demo I’d made in the sixties.”
The demo for Not Guilty (Track 102) was dated 1968 and was signposted as being recorded at his home, Kinfauns, in Esher, Surrey.
While The Beatles simply did not want to work with Harrison on getting the song on the record, he admitted he loved the song.
Harrison said: “The lyrics are a bit passé – all about upsetting ‘Apple carts’ and stuff – but it’s a bit about what was happening at the time.”
At this stage of Harrison’s life, he was both struggling with finding his place in The Beatles while also learning about Hinduism and the benefits of finding god. As a result, Not Guilty became a reflection of how he was feeling at the time.
Harrison broke down what the lyrics meant to him: “‘Not guilty for getting in your way / While you’re trying to steal the day’ – which was me trying to get a space.”
He went on: “‘Not guilty / For looking like a freak / Making friends with every Sikh / For leading your astray / On the road to Mandalay’ – which is the Maharishi and going to the Himalayas and all that was said about that.”
Harrison finished reflecting on Not Guilty (Take 102) but adding: “I like the tune a lot; it would make a great tune for Peggy Lee or someone.”
The Quiet Beatle, as he was known, did get a few major hits into The Beatles’ albums, however.
In fact, some of the band’s biggest songs came directly from Harrison, including Something, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Here Comes the Sun and I, Me, Mine.